By Brady Huggett

When considering initial public offerings and 2001, this phrase jumps to mind: It¿s sure been quiet out there. However, NeoGenesis Pharmaceuticals Inc., having spent the summer whipping itself into IPO shape, filed to join the ranks of public companies, seeking $115 million.

Achieving public status in 2001, although all three filed in 2000, were Seattle Genetics Inc., of Bothell, Wash.; Third Wave Technologies Inc., of Madison, Wis.; and Exact Sciences Corp., of Maynard, Mass. Their offerings raised $49 million, $82.5 million, and $56 million, respectively, according to BioWorld Snapshots. Although limited by SEC-imposed quiet-period rules, David Hunter, chief financial officer at NeoGenesis, said NeoGenesis¿ offering likely will be completed in 2002.

¿By the time the SEC reviews the documents and we respond and we get into early January, we expect investors are going to get back into the marketplace,¿ Hunter told BioWorld Today.

In its prospectus, NeoGenesis estimated the offering amount to be $115 million.

Just last week, BioNumerik Pharmaceuticals Inc., of San Antonio, pulled its IPO, originally filed in March. But, while 2001¿s market has not offered much meat for the IPO-hungry, there is a sense that perhaps the worst is over.

¿It¿s a pretty good time [for an IPO]; it¿s a better time than we have seen all year,¿ said Jon Alsenas, portfolio manager at ING Furman Selz Asset Management LLC in New York. ¿A lot of these biotech stocks are now getting a little expensive, and that¿s a good sign. [The market] won¿t be going down anymore, and when the market recovers, the biotech stocks recover.¿

What makes NeoGenesis, of Cambridge, Mass., think it can safely enter a slammed-shut market are its technology and a track record of putting its money where its mouth is, said Satish Jindal, CEO and chief scientific officer at NeoGenesis.

¿Genomics has really flooded the pharma industry with disease-associated proteins,¿ Jindal said. ¿Our goal is to exploit those disease-associated proteins, and we think the technology we have is maybe the only strategy to exploit it. We have done very well. If we say we will do something, we do it ¿ we said we would close all those deals and we did.¿

Since June, NeoGenesis has expanded an agreement with Biogen Inc., of Cambridge, Mass.; entered a research collaboration with Celltech Group plc, of Slough, UK; expanded an agreement with Schering-Plough Corp., of Madison, N.J.; and signed to collaborate with Mitsubishi-Tokyo Pharmaceuticals Inc., of Tokyo, just to name a few of its recent accomplishments. (See BioWorld Today, July 10, 2001; July 13, 2001; Aug. 7, 2001; and Aug. 16, 2001.)

The technology that has attracted such collaborators is NeoGenesis¿ automated ligand identification system (ALIS) and its NeoMorph library of more than 10 million drug-like compounds ¿ a technology that allows NeoGenesis to screen about 75 targets per year, although Jindal said that amount should double next year and the company should have the ability to screen 500 targets in 2003.

Alsenas said there is one upside to so much quietude on the markets.

¿There¿s been no supply,¿ he said. ¿We haven¿t seen any [IPOs] for about a year, so [investors] are interested in a good story. I don¿t know what the valuations will look like, but with a solid story at the right price, I think there will be plenty of interest.¿

That fits in well with NeoGenesis¿ plans.

¿We have a strong story to tell,¿ said Hunter.